Lead Controls - How To Get Your Fountains and Faucets Turned Back On
Several people have asked if anything can be done about the number of drinking fountains and other water outlets that have been shut off to minimize the amount of "flushing" that has to be done in response to lead concerns.
Fixtures may not be working for one of three reasons:
1. They're broken, unrelated to the lead issue.
2. They were tested and found to have consistently high lead readings.
3. The principal made a decision to reduce the number of fixtures that need to be flushed every day, in order to reduce the strain on building service resources.
I talked at length with the environmental safety officer at MCPS who is directly working on the lead-in-water issue.
Obviously, reason number one would obtain if the fixture was turned off before the lead issue surfaced, and you need to nag about the maintenance work order. Reason number two would most likely be the case if your school has been tested, the results reported, and most of the fixtures in the building back in normal operation. Some type of solution, such as a filter, should be in the works, but that will probably be a long process.
FINALLY, If you have an inordinate number of fixtures turned off in your building, and are concerned about your students' access to water, especially as the temperature heats up, you should talk to your school's principal about why the fixtures are shut off. If it's for reason number 3 (to reduce "flushing" time), you may want to discuss with your principals your concerns about the students not having adequate access to drinking water. If your school has not been tested for lead yet, it's highly unlikely that the fixture has been taped off or shut down because of specific knowledge of high lead readings in that fixture. Even if your school has been tested, but the results not yet released, and the number of fixtures shut off hasn't changed since the beginning of this process, it's also unlikely that the fixture was shut down because of specific knowledge of a particular problem with that fixture. It's more likely in most cases that the fixtures were shut off to save on manpower during the flushing process. The principal in each building has full authority to allow as many fixtures as he or she chooses to be turned on, so long as the principal has arranged for the fixtures to be adequately "flushed." Thus, for example, in elementary classrooms, if the teacher agrees to be the "flusher," and is willing to record the flushing on the required record sheet (for which the principal is responsible), the "bubbler" in the classroom can be turned on. There are national plumbing code standards (number of people and anticipated use per person in the building) that determined the number of drinking faucets that needed to be put into the schools to begin with. Particularly in this hot weather, if many of the hallway water fountains have been taped off, the school could be in violation of these standards. Especially now that the required flush time for many fixtures has been reduced, this should be a possiblity.
In addition, faucets that are used for handwashing, but not drinking, may be left on without being flushed, provided there is a sign stipulating the water should not be used for drinking or food processing. Thus, if you have concerns about the number of fixtures available for handwashing in your building, you should ask your principal about that as well.
If you have concerns about your building and would like me to follow up with the environmental safety officer, who can talk to the school principal, please email me the name of your school, and the portion of faucets that have been taped off.
I mentioned at the last exec committee meeting that I am working on setting up a meeting with MCPS and County Health officials to discuss the changes in the flushing protocol that they announced last week, as well as other issues like the speed of testing and access to water. I also hope to go over with them the list of questions that were submitted at the lead information night. I'll let you know when I have more information.
Safety Committee Chair